Recently a new book on Housing Bias has been published and the author, Paul Boudreaux is doing the radio interview rounds. The Federal Housing Administration was created in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression (my parents’ era) to encourage home ownership by federally guaranteeing home loans, making it possible to purchase a house with only a 10% down payment. Today, instead of the bank required 20% down, a new home buyer can put only 3% down and FHA will help the buyer qualify for a house loan.
Except in 1934 the FHA refused to guarantee loans to black people, or any loans to people who lived in mixed neighborhoods or neighborhoods anywhere near black people. Why? Because those neighborhoods were deemed unstable, and the FHA was afraid if the house went down in value and they had to repossess it, they couldn’t resell repossessed houses in those neighborhoods. After all, who wants to live in a black neighborhood?
The FHA had maps of all the black and mixed race areas of town (in red) to make sure they didn’t guarantee any loans on houses in those areas. White neighborhoods could only receive FHA guaranteed loans if they included restrictions in the deeds, making sure owners could not sell to black people, in order to make sure the neighborhood didn’t lose its value.
In this way huge amounts of money flowed into white neighborhoods, while no federally guaranteed loans flowed into black neighborhoods, as in NONE. Therefore the white neighborhoods looked rich, and the black neighborhoods looked poor.
“Why are these houses so small and ugly, Mommy?”
“Black people don’t know how to take care of their houses, honey.”
On top of that, cities would zone areas for warehouses and industry, predictably, not in the new white suburbs awash in lucrative federally backed mortgages. No, the black neighborhoods were zoned for warehouses and industries that belched black smoke and loud noises, and had big trucks trundling back and forth.
When black people wanted to buy houses, there were no neighborhoods available to them. So their existing neighborhoods became overcrowded.
As housing prices appreciated over the years. Whites who had been given the opportunity to buy houses in the suburbs had houses to borrow money against, to buy things like cars, second homes, investment property, new businesses and college for their kids.
These FHA policies continued through the boom of suburbs after WW2 in 1945. As white soldiers came home from the war, they bought houses in white neighborhoods, backed by the FHA. As black soldiers came home from the war, they could not receive an FHA loan, and were not permitted to buy a home in the suburbs. Through the Civil Rights protests of the 1950s, the back-of-the-bus boycotts, the voting rights marches, white flight into the suburbs, school desegregation, the hysteria of the Beatles, the race riots (that proved to white people that blacks were uncivilized), these policies continued, only changing in 1967, when I was 10 years old.
In 1967 the first black family moved into Plainfield, Indiana, a white suburb of black dominated Indianapolis. We were astounded when a black child appeared in the cafeteria of our school. We kept on standing up so we could see her. Finally the teacher placed her at the head of the long cafeteria table. So we could all stare at her without having to stand up. She was in the third grade. looked down at the table and chewed her sandwich slowly, as the children laughed and whispered the N word. (The black family did not move to Mooresville, where there was an active KKK group.)
By this time my family owned two houses. One we lived in, and one we rented out.
Today an average black person earns about 60 cents for every dollar an average white person earns. But the average black person still owns only 6% of what an average white person owns. Why? Because housing appreciates in value and is inherited through the generations.
My grandfather was a high school teacher who bought a house in San Bernadino, California in the 1930s, probably with FHA guaranteed loans. Then my grandparents opened a not very successful diner, probably borrowing money on their house. In the same way they bought farm land in Mississippi. When my grandparents died, their assets were inherited by my father and my aunt. None of this was available to black households until 1967. So my family, at the lower end of the middle class, has a huge financial jump on black families. The average white household now owns $111,000 in assets (mostly in their house), while the average black household owns only $7,000 in assets. Latino assets are similar to black assets.
What led to the change in government policy that opened up the FHA to let blacks have federally backed mortgages and buy housing wherever they could afford it? Racial unrest in the 1950s and 1960s. The bus boycott of Montgomery, Alabama, when blacks refused to sit in the back of the bus, the lunch counter sit-ins in the 1960s when blacks sat at whites-only lunch counters for days, waiting to be served, while whites spat on them. Voter registration marches, when blacks had fire hoses set on them, dogs and horses from state police attacking them with batons.
A preacher friend of mine who grew up in Arkansas said he remembers a preacher from the pulpit in a Church of Christ referring to “Martin Lucifer Koon.” Such was the hatred of blacks changing the lives of whites.
As blacks moved into white areas, high schools changed their dress codes. They banned all Afro hair styles, or made the rule that no student with an Afro hairstyle could have their picture taken for the student yearbook. Some of these rules were unconscious, white people were scandalized by black culture, seeing it as eroding the morals of white culture. Didn’t everyone know that blacks were much more promiscuous than whites? That’s why they are so poor! Would you want your daughter dating a black man? (Black maids and field workers were often expected to sexually service their white employers long after slavery officially ended.)
My parents relate how deacons or elders would stand at the back of the church in the 1960s and if a black family would come in, they would let them know that there was a black Church of Christ across town where they would feel more comfortable. My mother said, “And they thought they were doing that family a kindness!”
After the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1967, President Nixon launched the War on Drugs, in which distributing powdered cocaine (used by white people) received a much lower prison sentence than distributing crack cocaine (used by black people), which received a mandatory 30 year sentence with no chance of parole. Enforcement was uneven against blacks vs whites arrested for drug offences. Many believe the War on Drugs was a substitute for the housing bias against black people. All you have to do is put 5% of black people in jail with felonies, and they can never vote again, their voting power is weakened enough so they cannot gain power. Most presidential elections are won by narrow margins.
Now (mostly) white evangelical churches are longing for those bygone eras of white neighborhoods and white schools. During the 1950s and 1960s one factory salary could support a wife, kids, house in the suburbs and a car in the driveway. Whites look back with nostalgia, confusing global imports with the integration of the last 50 years. Most factories have moved to countries who pay 15 cents an hour. The only jobs left here are ones that cannot be exported: food, delivery, leisure and hotels, technology, housing, construction, education, finance and healthcare.
White churches voted for racial inequality in the last election. They deny it, because they know racial inequality is a sin. They justify it by saying poor people are lazy, generations are on welfare, taking up our healthcare system, translation: blacks. White churches also justify their voting by saying that they were saving the lives of the unborn, voting against abortion. this rings hollow when at the same time they are voting against healthcare dollars for the unborn and for pregnant women. (White evangelicals also had concerns about judges nominated for the Supreme Court, religious liberty, and gay rights.)
White evangelicalism is a whited sepulcher. Pretty on the outside, full of rot on the inside.